The last place you might expect a hip Italian pizzeria and raw bar to pop up is deep within the San Gabriel Valley. Surrounded by Asian restaurants, the recently opened Buccumi in Rowland Heights sticks out like a sore thumb.
Make no mistake, though: Buccumi’s seemingly random location was planned years in advance with the hope that it would “shake things up in the area,” according to Kameron Trevino, one of the restaurant's business partners. “We wanted to be a culture shock to Rowland Heights,” Trevino says.
The owners of Buccumi are also behind Mokkoji Shabu Shabu, the popular Japanese hot-pot restaurant with branches in Arcadia and Rowland Heights. In opening their new restaurant, which was in development long before Mokkoji, they collaborated with two chefs, one from Mokkoji, the other a former chef at a San Antonio restaurant called Dough Pizzeria. At Buccumi, the ambiance is modern and minimalist, with an expansive open kitchen. With its large glass windows, sleek decor and pieces from local artists decorating the walls, it looks like a place transported straight from the hipper enclaves of downtown L.A.
“The food is a reflection of the people cooking it," Trevino says. "We have a very diverse group of chefs who will see that the dishes will be constantly changing.”
The focal point of the restaurant is its raw bar and a large earth-stone brick oven. Fresh pasta is constantly being made on the other side of the restaurant. The pizza dough at Buccumi goes through a 36-hour fermentation process, resulting in a crust — crispy, bubbly and moist — that's more comparable to a proper baguette than the typical New York–style pizza.
Aside from the more traditional Italian classics, Buccumi also offers several Asian-inflected dishes. The Buccumi Special is a squid-ink pasta tossed with tobiko, guanciale, clams, shrimp, calamari, mussels and tomato sauce. There’s also a pork belly and guanciale pizza that comes dressed with chili sauce, romaine, mozzarella, Calabrian peppers and roasted garlic — a Korean BBQ meal compacted into pizza form.
“It's been a bit of a battle to get customers to recognize us in Rowland Heights, but pasta and pizza aren't such a far leap from the many noodle and dumpling houses in the area,” Trevino says.
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And for happy hour fans: The raw bar offers $2 oysters from 5 to 7 p.m., as well as $10 pizza and pasta specials during lunch.
Buccumi, 18162 Colima Ave., Rowland Heights, (626) 810-6060.